Court orders Sharmila’s unconditional release dismissing suicide attempt charge

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IMPHAL, August 19: Almost 14 years after Irom Chanu Sharmila began her indefinite hunger strike, a local court has directed her release dismissing charges that she was fasting unto death.

Sessions Judge, Manipur East A Guneshwar Sharma ordered that Sharmila be released from custody, if not required in any other case.

Sharmila had filed a revision petition before the court against an earlier order passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate (Imphal East) on June 4 that charged her under section 309 IPC.

In his judgement and order, the Sessions Judge, Manipur East observed “The agitation of Irom Chanu Sharmila is a political demand through a lawful means of repealing a valid statute.”

“From her past conduct, it seems that she may continue with the fast till her demand is met politically by the government. In the circumstances, the State government may take up appropriate measures for her health and safety, such as nose feeding, etc. in case she decides to continue with her fast.”

The judge in his order stated: “In the case record, there is no material to establish that Irom Chanu Sharmila has ever stated she is/was fasting unto death, except for the mere allegation contained in the FIR and charge sheet and uncorroborated news reports.”

“The allegation of fast unto death is a mere conjecture mentioned in the FIR and charge sheet and is not supported by any material.”

Surviving solely on nose feeding without taking any food for 14 years negates the very feeble presumption of “intention of fasting unto death” since the petitioner is not refusing nose feeding, said the judgement order.

Speaking to media persons, Sharmila’s counsel Khaidem Mani said the court order is a landmark judgement in the legal history, however, since court proceedings take time, Sharmila’s actual release might take a couple of days.

Also known as the Iron lady of Manipur, Sharmila began her fast on November 2, 2000 demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. She was shortly arrested on charges of attempting suicide under section 309 IPC, followed by an annual ritual of release and re-arrest as under the provision, a person charged of such offence is punishable with imprisonment for up to one year.

She was last released on March 13 and re-arrested by the Porompat Police on March 14.

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